Albion Excelsior fullback Cory Maniapoto gave his team a step up in the Southland Rugby division 2 semifinal over Pioneer on Saturday when he kicked a penalty and scored a try.
After the game, played at the Gore A&P Showgrounds, Albion Excelsior walked away with the Pascoe Gardiner Cup, won 15-14.
The gloomy, wet day did not stop hundreds of fans and past and present club members turning out to watch the first division two semifinal the teams had played in years, Albion Excelsior club member Bob Verco said.
The teams were straight into it. Albion Excelsior halfback Hunter Hape Crammond was not letting Pioneer’s Jordan Cudd-Anderson get away with a full-field sprint first minute to the tryline and made a full-force tackle on Pioneer’s 5m line, just stopping Cudd-Anderson from scoring.
However, it was Cudd-Anderson who scored the first try, 20 minutes into the first half, which he then converted, making it 7-0 to Pioneer.
It did not take long for Albion Excelsior to prove why it was in the semifinal when Maniapoto sent some stellar kicks down field, pushing his side hard on attack.
The run of play was disrupted by a poorly disciplined Pioneer team giving Albion Excelsior two shots at goal within five minutes.
The first penalty attempt Maniapoto missed, but the second went straight through the posts and Pioneer held a 7-3 lead at halftime.
After the break Excelsior came out strongly. After initially being held up, captain Cody Sayer scored its first try, five minutes into the second half.
Maniapoto kicked the conversion.
Pioneer followed this with multiple runs to the tryline and finally scored a hard-earned try through Damon Hurley, which was converted by Cudd-Anderson.
Albion Excelsior’s pack pushed hard on attack with 10 minutes to go, and eventually Maniapoto put the ball on the line for a try. However, he was unable to convert it.
From this moment on Albion Excelsior played for possession, so when the time was right Maniapoto could kick it out and end the game.
Maniapoto said the win did not feel real yet.
“We went into the game knowing where some strong points were in the Pioneer team, so if we could shut them down we would win,” he said.
In the other semifinal, Mossburn Stags beat Waikiwi 34-12 at Mossburn.
The final will be played at Mossburn on Saturday.
Scorers: Albion-Excelsior 15 (Maniapoto, Sayer tries; Maniapoto con, pen); Pioneer 14 (Damon Hurley, Jordan Cudd-Anderson tries; Cudd-Anderson 2 con).